The Idea of Socialism

A Heresy and Its Legacy

The received wisdom today seems to be that, with the downfall of Soviet communism, socialism has lost its pungency.  Not only has Marxism proper reputedly crumbled, together with the Berlin Wall, but the somewhat watered-down type of socialism that survives Marxism has been forced to come to terms with its archrival, economic liberalism, which is thereby declared the real winner of the century-old competition.  The echo still rumbles of the Fukuyama pamphlet, published with a fracas as a landmark of Reagan’s triumphal march, shrouded with a vague Hegelian spirit, which hailed the end of history and the total demise of backward ideologies.

Now, it may be argued, with some reason, that quite a few basic principles of Marxist socialism, particularly its socioeconomic dogmas (the labor theory of value, the ever-increasing pauperization of the proletariat, and so forth) have been left to the critique of mice.  The irreplaceable effectiveness of private individual initiative and the corollary inefficiency of state-controlled economy (and of economic planning and collective ownership of the means of production) are generally acknowledged.

But there is something just as glaring as the achievements of economic liberalism: however obvious the failures of socialism (its economic inefficiency resulting in constant degradation of its living standards, a general shabbiness of life and dreariness of intellectual activity,...

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